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Primer: The easy (and cheap!) way to good coin photos

6 posts in this topic

I posted this across the street, too. But wanted to share the wisdom. tongue.gif Such as it is!! grin.gif


I thought I would produce a quickie guide for the board on taking good pictures on the cheap. I hope it is useful for you. This won't make you a professional, but I hope it provides just enough oomph to make you happy you bought that digital camera! While some of this detail is my own, some of it is gleaned from the advice of many board members that I've read. Part of the credit belongs to them. People like shylock, coppercoins, and K6AZ, among others.


You'll need:

3 desk lamps (I used $8.88 ones from walmart)

3 sheets of typing paper

3 normal tungsten lights at 60 watts (4 GE soft whites: $1.50)

1 black felt pad ($1 at walmart)

1 digital camera with macro mode


Initial setup:

Set up your lights around the black felt pad in this type of pattern (ignore the dots):









Put the bases of the desk lamps about 6-10 inches away from the felt and aim the light at about a 45 degree angle towards the felt. Cover the front of the lamp with the typing paper. Be sure not to let the paper touch the bulb and leave a little of the front uncovered so that some heat can escape. Don't leave the lights on for a long, long time though - or unattended - because it is a lot of heat and it is paper, so there is always that remote possibility that something can go wrong.


Camera setup:

Your camera needs to be able to point down. If you have a camera with a rotating lens (like the ricoh rdc 4300) then you just need to point the lens. Put the camera on a travel tripod or other tripod/device that lets you aim it really close (about 2-6 inches away) and steady.


Set the camera's white balance (sometimes called light source) to tungsten. Set the camera into macro mode. Set the exposure compensation to +1.0 EV (you might need to play with this value). You need to increase the exposure compensation because you are shooting a bright subject (coin) against a dark background (felt)


Set your camera to take the biggest photos with the least compression. In other words, the setting that takes the fewest number of pictures at the biggest size. You need the pixels to play with.



Center the coin and take the picture. Import the picture to your favorite photo editing program and crop to size, etc. You're done!


Attached is an example I took with this setup this morning.


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So far, I've only used this on slabbed coins! The one in this thread is ANACS. The 1945s walker in the other thread is in PCGS slab. The only slabbed coin I have had any difficulty with is 1 NGC one with heavy rainbow colors on the left side and bright white on the other. Can't get it to do just right yet. So this method works for raw and holdered.


The only thing different is when you do proofs. Then I lower the exposure compensation to 0, which makes the frost stand out better and with more detail.



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